All Quiet on the Iraqi Front?

(letter to the Circleville Herald - August 6, 2008)

I saw, we shall call him Bill, about 0400, brought by his frightened family to my emergency department. Since returning from his second tour in Iraq, Bill's wife says he is distant, like he is " not here". She and the children love but have become afraid of him. Alternately withdrawn, then angry, his newly short fuse, never a feature of his personality before, has cost him his civilian job. Attempts at self-medication with alcohol has lead to bar fights, car accidents and now, tonight, a tearful confession to his wife that he should be dead.

Bill is surprised that I listen, his eye contact becomes longer, he talks more freely on learning I am a veteran. Bill's fire team in Anbar Province flattened several homes with mortar, artillery and 50 caliber machine gun fire. Bill was told insurgents that would kill him were in there. Bill's face initially tearing, then his voice flattening as men do when they are sharing more that they are accustomed, or perhaps flattening as he confront the deep hole inside, he tells me of finding the half-dozen or so dead children in the rubble. A month later, three of Bill's buddies are killed by a roadside IED. Bill in the fighting vehicle next in line, is unhurt.

There are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Bill's among us. They are victims of our failure to think clearly after 9/11. Like a mob, we followed

Mr. Bush into Iraq, sure we were like the posse on an old TV western, we with white hats, they with black turbans.

Erich Maria Remarque, World War 1 veteran, writes in All Quiet on the Western Front:

"This story is to be neither an accusation, nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men, who, even though they may have escaped its' shells, were destroyed by the war."

For Bill's sake, visit "Eyes Wide Open-Ohio" and "Cost of War", August 8-10 on the Pickaway County Courthouse Steps. The exhibit features 188 empty combat boots for Ohio troops killed in Iraq as well as civilian shoes, representing the over 200,000 Iraqi deaths. Sponsored by the Circleville Friends Worship Group ( aka Quakers) and Veterans for Peace, we pray that our nation think very, very carefully, forget the TV westerns, before we jump excitedly into the next unnecessary war.

Brad Cotton

Convener, Circleville Friends Worship Group.